Poll Report: Aftermath

It’s only been three days since the breaking of the “bitter” remarks, and as a result, there still isn’t really enough polling data out there to adequately assess the situation on the ground in the aftermath.  There is some data out there that can provide us with a sneak peek into what’s to come.

One thing that strikes me as I observe the unfolding of this latest minutiae laden controversy is that Obama is slowly becoming something of an anti-Rove in his campaign style.  Where one of the key’s to Rove’s political strategy was to turn an opponent’s strength into a weakness, Obama’s gift seems to be to turn weaknesses into strengths.

Some of the polling data seems to suggest this; his campaign is particularly resilient and he is able to pivot on a perceived weakness and integrate that into a positive asset for his candidacy. The earliest indicator of that has been his lack of experience, which he turned around to become the heart of what is a change candidacy. When Wright hit, the Obama campaign pivoted on that issue and turned it into a debate on repairing the racial divide in this country.

Now it’s time for the, “bitter gaffe”.

What looks to be happening is that what should have made it more difficult for Obama to reach middle class white voters may turn into his best avenue into this demographic that hasn’t shunned him thus far, but has definitely taken a while to warm up to him. It’s too early to tell whether or not he will be successful here, and in fact, none of these pivots have been completely successful.

Indeed, there are hints that this quote could really spell trouble for the Illinois Senator. ARG has put out a post “bitter” poll that shows Obama all of a sudden down by twenty points in Pennsylvania. This would seem to be bad news for Obama except, as Kevin Hoffman warns, there’s more than a little reason to be skeptical of the ARG poll.

Unlike SUSA and PPP which have done well to earn themselves good reputations this primary season, ARG’s reputation has been suspect. In regards to this poll, for instance, this twenty point deficit in Clinton’s favor follows a survey where the two candidates were tied. Given that this poll does not seem to jive well with some of the national trackers, or even more direct polling on this topic, I would be more than tempted to believe that this is another outlier by ARG.

Indeed, Rasmussen had conducted a poll and found that 56% of voters disagree with Obama’s comments. This would seem to suggest that perhaps ARG isn’t completely off on their polling, however, there’s an opposing bit of data that might suggest otherwise. While 56% disagree with the guns and God part of the statement, 56% of voters agree with the “bitter” portion of the comments.

This is particularly significant because it shows a clear path to use this entire controversy to Obama’s advantage, and in fact, he has been doing just that. He’s using the flap to allow him to push forth a more aggressively populist message and he’s doing that using his oppenents who have attacked him on this as a backdrop.

Serving as a wild card in understanding how this thing will eventually settle itself is the fact that Rasmussen reports only about a quarter of voters have followed the story closely. Adding in those who have followed the story somewhat closely, that still only brings the total up to about half of the voting populace.

What that means is that this story still has plenty of room to be defined by whichever campaign defines it. In other words, if Hillary Clinton or John McCain is able to set the tone for the coverage, Obama is likely to suffer given that they will try to push the controversy towards guns, God, and xenophobia aspect of the story where Obama suffers. Should Obama control the news cycles about the story from here on in, he’s likely to improve his standing.

That he’s been on the ball so far with the damage control, and in the space of seventy-two hours turned it from a liability to a key point of contention with his opponents suggests that he should fair pretty well with this controversy.

In fact, when we take a look at the national daily trackers, one begins to wonder if there was any controversy at all. Rasmussen continues to show a close race with Obama still maintaining an advantage over Clinton, while Gallup’s numbers, I have to admit, surprised me a little bit.

In the Democratic race, Gallup shows Obama staying rigid while Hillary Clinton continues to slowly fade. Keep in mind, at least the last two surveys were conducted at a time when the coverage of the “bitter” remark was perhaps at its most intense and most negative towards the campaign. Only since yesterday afternoon have I noticed a significant change in the media tone away from this being a major, potentially campaign ending gaffe. Despite this, Obama’s support nationwide has remained rock solid.

Even in his race against John McCain Obama still holds steady, though McCain did shrink the already narrow gap by about one point.

Final analysis at this point indicates a few key things. The first is that Obama is again displaying an excellent ability to weather controversy and tribulations on the campaign trail. The response to this story has been among the most rapid yet with the campaign immediately moving to shape the tone of the narrative.

Hillary Clinton bit too hard on the story, and did so seemingly a little ham-handedly. She initially put her focus on the “bitter” aspect of the statement, which as Rasmussen’s poll above indicates, may have been a mistake. With over eighty percent of voters believing America is on the wrong track, it is unrealistic to assume that people aren’t bitter, but that was the initial line of attack that Clinton chose. Further, it appears that she may have hit on the story too hard, as reader Cee points out in the comments to this post; Senator Clinton had received some negative feedback when she continued her assault at a recent event where both candidates spoke.

Finally, John McCain hasn’t seemed to reap incredible gains off of this controversy either, though it is important to note, as Oliver Willis brings to light, McCain seems to be softening on his attacks against Obama being an elitist. This makes me believe that at least McCain seems to understand the potential for blowback that exists in trying to push too hard in painting Obama as an elitist.

Thus, while there still isn’t a lot of polling data out there yet on this issue, I think that the fact that it’s been out there for three days now, and hasn’t put much of a dent in Obama’s numbers points to what some of this were saying from the beginning; that there’s just not a lot of there there. Further, this controversy will give Obama an opportunity to construct an open narrative with working class whites that previous to this point has been seemingly unavailable to him. The issue is likely to receive much more attention, but he has a great opportunity to use it to his advantage at least in the venue of the Democratic primary.

There is still the potential for a negative blowback come time for the General Election, but one thing that Democrats in particular need to pay attention to is the Obama campaign’s ability to deftly capitalize off of seemingly devastating news.

More from Memeorandum: MyDD, The Moderate Voice, Pollster.com, Political Radar, The Daily Dish, The Swamp, Comments from Left Field, Hot Air, TalkLeft, Open Left and Donklephant. protein wisdom, Hot Air, TalkLeft, Weekly Standard Blog, Don Surber, Wake up America, American Power, Commentary, The Strata-Sphere, New York Magazine, Blogometer, QandO, MyDD, Redstate, TownHall Blog, Power Line, Boston Globe, TPM Election Central and Real Clear Politics.

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  1. PA Voters Don’t Care About “Bitter” Comment | Comments from Left Field - [...] a quick follow-up to Kyle’s post from yesterday noting that, in the aftermath of Obama’s “bitter” comment Pennsylvanians really…

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